The White House as a Black Box

Riley writes an interesting article when he covers how we manage to get information about presidents and their tenure in office. It was interesting to learn how NIxon recorded all of his conversations and even his behavior during his time in power. These tapes offered so much information for historians, and the best part about these tapes were they were unaltered. However, for all their value in being a source of information, they were also the very reason why Nixon was forced to resign, they were indisputable evidence against him when he came under investigation for Watergate. Since then, presidents no longer record all their conversations the way Nixon did, thus changing the way we has researchers and historians are able to gather information while someone was president. Furthermore, former presidents like Bush changed and added more regulations on how and when we can access papers from former presidents. With this in mind, we have now had to rely on knowing that when we can finally access any papers released to the public on a president’s administration it could be seriously altered. Even though we have the media to thank for keeping us as informed as possible on what is happening in the White House, they are also at the mercy of restricted information. So now we have to rely on oral history. Oral history can offer a great deal of information, but like the presidential papers that are released starting with Reagan, we are well aware of the fact that things may be left out or perhaps forgotten. Despite this fact, it is some of the best means to analyze a presidential term.

Bergamot Balm and Verbenas

It never occurred to me just how important plants could be or what hidden meanings they could have on a society. Just like most people, I like plants, they certainly know how to make a house, or a room look alive and beautiful. I had no idea however that plants could point out your class in society and they could have certain meanings about the people living on the property they decorated. What was interesting about the reading was the families that it discusses and their lives that heavily revolved around plants. The plants had very special meanings to these families. First off, they were their source of income. The plants were a means of keeping the family working together, from one family splitting the work into male and female roles, to the having the families working together to garden. When the plants were not bringing the family together, the plants were a means of gathering friends. The author Lyon-Jenness mentions the women would often gather together to hand out new seeds to add to their collection of flowers and plants. Plants also held precious memories, and they were often thought of as family members, taken care of and fussed over. To lose one was almost like losing a family member. I never would have thought a simple plant, whether a tree or a tiny flower, could have so much meaning on your status in society, and on ones health. I never realized they could bring a community together as well as a family. Interesting read to say for sure.

Heathcott: Accidental Archive

This particular reading was by far one of my favorites so far. It was fascinating to read how a bunch of old trash could reveal such amazing details about the lives of the Aufderheide family. Just by sorting through all the trash, we were able to discover they were a German immigrant family. Mr. Aufderheide went to pharmacy school and then after graduating from that went on to get another degree and proceeded to open his own store. From uncovering receipts, news papers, and other household items, public records, etc, we know the family purchased their home and at the time it was a modern home for a middle-class family. It was state of the art, minus heating which they relied on a stove to warm the home. We know what kind of architecture influenced the building of the home, the demographics of the neighborhood that it was in, the stores and businesses that were near by. From the ticket stubs and programs, we know the the family enjoyed going to shows. They were financially stable, paying $116 on clothing. They even could afford to purchase and own a car. By going over public records, we knew that the family evolved during the backlash on German immigrants. Years before they claimed they did claim they had hailed from Germany, but a few years later they claimed Missouri was their homeland. I guess the saying applies to this when they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Rebuilding the Pueblo World

Liebmann continues with his research on the Jemez Indians. He notes that the community proceeded t burn down and destroy their own village due to the fact that they associated it with the Spanish and therefore did not feel a real connection to the village. Since they had no written records, this is where archaeologists come in. After destroying the mission village, the Jemez fled and rebuilt their community where they felt they would be safe and be able to deter enemies. However, the size of the population and homes they lived in were still a mystery. With the use of sonar and different tools, we now know the approximate size of a home, and a village. We can estimate around how large a population was based on the size of the homes. We can also estimate what the homes might have looked like. Another important factor that Liebmann discusses is that the Spanish were not the only ones the Jemez had to worry about, they also had other native tribes such as the Apache and the Utes to contend with. With the constant threat of the Spanish and other tribes, the Jemez argued on moving on to a different site to build a new community they felt could be better defended. Overall, summing up what Liebmann stated earlier, with no written history, we have had to rely on many other sources to help put the lives of the Jemez together. We have learned they lived in communities, they preferred to live under one roof with their family members, and they lived in relatively small communities where the population never went over 1,000 people.

Liebmann Intro.

The Liebmann reading is very interesting because it focuses on the Native American revolts. He manages to point out that most of the revolts that have been from the Natives are not highly focused on due to their lack of what we deem as successful. Due to these failures, it has left historians with how to categorize these details. Unfortunately when it comes to researching, the Spanish or other Western cultures, they have their records, written records. However, it is not surprising that much of their written or recorded history leans towards some form of bias. Much of the Native history was not written by the Natives. Most of their history is oral. It is not just oral history that helps put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but historians also rely on archaeologist to comb through artifacts to help reveal the story. Liebmann wants more focus on Native American revolts, and just because there are so many gaps in the story, we are still able to fill in the gaps working with other groups like archaeologists.

Hanna: Cartographic Memories of Slavery and Freedom

Hanna writes about a former slave named John Washington. What made John unique was he was able to read and write. After he gained freedom, John made a map that looked like nothing many historians had ever seen. John’s map was a map of Fredericksburg, VA, but it looked very different from other maps made around the same time. What historians then realized that this map was a map based on John’s memories and experiences as a slave. Slaves and freed slaves had their movements restricted where ever they went, whether on a plantation or a city. So John’s movement around Fredericksburg would have been very different from that of a white citizen. This is reflected in the map. The map clearly shows the routes he would take and the routes he took to gain his freedom. What is interesting though is there is no images of the home he grew up in as a slave and where he does not have pleasant memories. The map was not designed to be accurate, the map was made by Washington to remember a bit of his past. And in this regard Hanna states we need to give this map a second glance instead of dismissing it because it still holds historical value. It shows us a different movement, a different society, and a different landscape from a whole new point of view.

Harley: Texts and Contexts in the Interpretation of Early Maps

This reading was actually very informative because I did not realize just how complex maps really were. Some of the issues that were brought up I never would have associated with the world of map making. It is interesting how historians can use maps, but to to rely on them is to take a big gamble on credibility. I was surprised to realize just how many factors went into making a map. Politics played a huge role in map making, There really were no regulations back then when it came to making a map, and many maps were not required to be 100% accurate. So it was not surprising that large kingdoms would embellish on the size of their empire. Not surprising since it was the high class that funded map makers. It was not just the patron that influenced the maps, but the cartographer obviously influenced the map based on his own beliefs and what was going on around them. Although these maps give historians an idea of what an empire or a piece of land looked like at the time, it is important to take into consideration that the information being presented may not be entirely accurate. To read these maps, it is important to read in between the lines and understand what was going on at the time and who was influencing its creation.

The Port: Shipping and Trade

In this chapter De La Fuente discusses the complexity of Havana as a port. He covers in detail just how important Havana was for the Spanish and just how much they invested in it to keep it going. Havana proved its worth for Spanish ships to stop and restock between the colonies and Europe. And then having direct access to the Gulf currents helped moved their ships along at a quicker speed. De La Fuente also discusses in details what sort of goods went through these ports. Goods such as foods, spices, of course precious metals, and of course wine arrived at these ports. It wasn’t just materialistic goods that came through, slave ships also dropped their anchors at the ports. Fuente even mentions how many Spanish ships were solely used just for the transportation of slaves. It was also interesting to read that there were cases if illegal activities and the Spanish authorities were aware of them and did take an active role in trying to curb this. Overall this was an interesting chapter because I never realized just how important a port was for a civilization. It was literally the a life line for the people of Havana, and it was interesting to see just how much they gained from these ships. It brought them life, sustenance, culture. On the other hand it was really neat to see that a tiny little island of Cuba ended up meaning so much for Spain and the rest of its colonies.

Havana and the Atlantic

De La Fuente writes about how Havana became an important port for Spain. In the beginning the reading discusses how the original port was taken over by Sores. After demanding a heavy ransom for him to release the port, the citizens of Cuba along with their governor attempted and failed to over throw Sores. This angered Sores and resulted in the burning of the fort. It was clear that after such destruction it would have to be rebuilt, but Spain had to be made to realize how important Cuba was as a port for them.  With only a native population, some African slaves, and mestizos, the Spanish crown did not see Cuba as useful because it was not producing any minerals such as gold, or even like the Dominican Republic, it wasn’t even producing anything like sugar to export. Once the Spanish crown realized that Cuba did hold some use for them as a port for their ships traveling to other colonies the old capital was then moved to Havana, and then more Spanish were sent there to become local administrators. The fort was rebuilt, churches and hospitals were added, and millions of Spanish money went into investing in to the economy. It was a success and Havana became the fastest growing city. Records to show this growth, and to understand what the early society was De La Fuente relies on records such as wills, dowries, and other primary sources. He then clearly points them all out in his notes and his bibliography which he displays in a very orderly manner. I like how he lays headlines primary sources, articles and books.

Presnell: History and the Internet

This reading was very useful because it discusses the pros and cons of the internet. While the internet has given us an amazing amount of access to any and everything, it also comes with its own pitfalls. There are no real ways to regulate what information is put out on the web, and this presents a problem when it comes to validating what information is real and authentic vs what is just false. Thankfully, Presnell comes to the rescue and gives us a very extensive guide on how to navigate the web when it comes to doing research. First and foremost we get a brief lesson on the kind of sources are out there and what websites are useful and legitimate. Then he points out what kind of browsers there are, and how to break down words to search for topics. I like how he really emphasizes on searching for primary sources because that has been my biggest struggle for my project. At the end of the article, Presnell has presented a step by step guide for using the internet and evaluating a site. How does it look, is the site constantly updated, where and who are their sources, are the images clear? My favorite part was the history forum that allows people to ask questions and anyone can answer. This often leads to new avenues to which one can find information. At the end of the day though, Presnell does say that despite all the ways he teaches us to find legitimate sites, it also comes down to using our own intuition when judging a website.